New York, USA
Avi Golden was an emergency medical technician and paramedic in many different places. These included a critical care paramedic, certified flight paramedic including the role with Magen David Adom in Israel, Rescue Technician, and in the allied roles of firefighter and hazmat (hazardous materials) operations and weapons of mass destruction technician. He was spending his free time to volunteer in the hospitals. Situation transformed 14 years ago after Avi had his stroke resulting in Aphasia. What didn't changed is his attitude and desire to help others. He now makes it his mission to educate others dealing with aphasia.
Aphasia is a condition that affects an ability to communicate. It can affect your speech, as well as the way you write and understand both spoken and written language. Aphasia typically occurs suddenly after a stroke or a head injury. That's exactly the Avi's case but it never hold him back. He planned to enter medical school, but, in June of 2007, at the age of 33, tragically suffered a stroke during open heart surgery to repair a mitral valve prolapse (MVP). He worked very hard everyday to be able to speak again. It took 15 hours every week of speech therapy including tenses, word repetition and learning how to structure sentences.
Avi can understand what people are saying to him, however, he continues to have trouble speaking, writing and reading. This can be devastating for a person with such an outgoing personality, let alone a paramedic who needs to communicate accurately and effectively to do his job. Avi describes how his speech therapy looked like: "For example, speech pathologist says “Dog”, I listened to that but instead I said “Cat”. Sometimes, I'm listening and I think “Oh, I understand”. Other times I don’t know what to do in auditory." After two months in the hospital after the stroke, another two of intensive in-patient rehabilitation Avi started a therapy which continues to this day.
Lauren Notario, Speech Pathologist explains what could be helpful for people with Aphasia: “When a person with aphasia is robbed of their speech, one of the first things I teach them is a different way to tell their family, “I love you”. I ask them to squeeze my hand 3 times. I tell them, “when you can’t use your words, this is the way that you can let them know that you love them.”
Words can escape a person but compassion, respect and humor will always remain.
Avi is living his life to the fullest and enjoys many activities including motor parachute gliding (Pictured below), scuba-diving or rock climbing. He refuses everyday to let aphasia get in his way and he continue to contribute to education about aphasia. He still works and volunteer as a paramedic, pursuing his new mission of "Aphasia advocacy" teaching others how aphasia impacts a stroke survivor in his daily life.
Source: Avi Golden's private archives